“Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
This memorable line is by former President George W. Bush as he spoke at the memorial service for the 5 slain Dallas police officers. Mr. Bush was brief in his remarks. Only 6 ½ minutes. But they were passionate. Powerful. And penetrating. His words have been tweeted. Retweeted. Posted on facebook. And the subject of newspaper articles and TV news shows.
President Bush’s quote has application to any relationship. For the word “groups” substitute the word family. Community. Churches. Clubs. Preachers. Christians. Police. Black men. White men. Hispanics. Jews. Republicans. Democrats. The list is endless.
Indeed it is difficult to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. What do they feel? How do they think? Why do they act the way they do? It’s so easy to judge someone else without any understanding of their motives. That’s why Jesus commanded “Judge not that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1). In that text Jesus is condemning hypocritical and hypercritical judgment of others. Not a discernment based on righteousness, reasonableness and facts.
One of my favorite authors, anonymous, expressed the challenge we all face this way.
When the other fellow takes a long time, he’s slow.
When I take a long time, I’m thorough.
When the other fellow doesn’t do it, he’s lazy,
When I don’t do it, I’m busy.
When the other fellow does something without being told, he’s overstepping his bounds.
When I do it, that’s initiative.
When the other fellow overlooks a rule of etiquette, he’s rude.
When I skip a few rules, I’m original.
When the other fellow pleases the boss, he’s an apple polisher,
When I please the boss, it’s cooperation,
When the other fellow gets ahead, he’s getting the breaks,
When I manage to get ahead, it’s the reward of hard work.
The context around the President’s quote is also worthy of our consideration.
“At times, it seems like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. Argument turns too easily into animosity. Disagreement escalates into dehumanization. Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples while judging ourselves by our best intentions.”
The President then added, “And this has strained our bonds of understanding and common purpose. But Americans, I think, have a great advantage. To renew our unity, we only need to remember our values. We have never been held together by blood or background. We are bound by things of the spirit, by shared commitments to common ideals.”
The biggest challenge to applying President Bush’s remedy to this problem is agreement on what unifies us. Many today reject the “things of the spirit.” “Common ideals” on which America was founded are increasingly becoming uncommon. And the moral, ethical and Biblical values generally held by most citizens and groups are being replaced by an attitude of “no absolutes.”
All this offers Christians a great challenge to really be “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” (Matt 5:13-16). To give others the benefit of the doubt. To seek to understand the other person’s point of view. To be charitable in our pronouncement of people’s motives.
John Maxwell expressed our problem this way. “Most people use two totally different sets of criteria for judging themselves versus others. We tend to judge others according to their actions. It’s very cut-and-dried. However, we judge ourselves by our intentions. Even if we do the wrong thing, if we believe our motives were good, we let ourselves off the hook.”
The one principle of all human relationships that will forever change your life is practicing the golden rule: Treat other people the way you want to be treated (Matt 7:12).
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman